RAN HFV Memorial

RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam memorials

By Robert Ray

Gloria Shipp, widow of LACM Noel Shipp, and Sue Marschaulk, widow of WO I Glen Moore, unveiled a monument at the US Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama on 27 May 2005. The memorial records the names of the 32 Americans and five Australians killed in action during operations in Vietnam, 1967-71 with the 135th Assault Helicopter Company, an Experimental Military Unit (EMU) made up of US Army and RAN personnel in a single command. An Australian memorial at Walsh Park Bomaderry was dedicated on 27 April 2002.

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The memorial at Fort Rucker, Alabama, commemorating the 135th Assault Helicopter Company and those Americans and Australians who lost their lives in this Experimental Military Unit (EMU) in Vietnam
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Over 200 veterans, relatives, descendants and friends attended the U.S. memorial dedication, including 42 or so Australians who also shared a pre-dedication reunion at Biloxi, Mississippi, on the Gulf of Mexico. LCOL Fred Dunaway US Army (ret) presided and CMDR Winston James DSC RAN (ret), OIC RANHFV 1970-71, Frank Eyck OAM and Jim Hill participated in the ceremony.

During the ceremony, an Australian National Flag, donated by the Australian War Memorial, and an Australian Naval Ensign, along with the EMU history were presented to the Garrison Commander, COL William S. Laresse, for safekeeping in the US Army Aviation Museum.

The Australians were warmly hosted and accommodated by families in Biloxi and the district surrounding Fort Rucker. General Bill Lord, CO Keesler Air Force Base, invited all those attending to a base tour and a very professional briefing: how reservists on full time service routinely fly their J model Hercules into the eyes of hurricanes.

Transferring the activity from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Fort Rucker, Alabama, 150 miles away, was no challenge for the experienced Army hosts. They simply formed a 50-vehicle road convoy and provided a police escort! Through each town the county police kept the convoy moving by cancelling traffic lights and stopping crossing vehicles. Each policeman saluted or honoured the passage in some distinctive way. It was a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

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The Australian Memorial, in Walsh Park, Bombaderry, NSW.
Fred Dunaway, a former CO of the 135th AHC, with great assistance from his wife Caroline and daughter Fran, plus the willing help of many, pulled it all together in the USA. Frank Eyck, his wife Skippy and their team organised the monument in Australia. The US Army and RANHFV EMUs who put in the hard effort may now relax with the certain knowledge that the EMU history is carved in stone, in both countries, for those who follow to ponder.